Monday, January 30, 2012

In the Name of the Lord -- Phil McHugh, Gloria Gaither, and Sandi Patty

The three of them wrote a winner. Phil McHugh, Gloria Gaither, and Sandi Patty together wrote the song “In the Name of the Lord”, the 1987 Dove Award winner for song of the year. What were these three thinking when they wrote it? Many times, all that is heard of the song is its chorus, but there seem to be clues in the other words of the song that suggest some answers to what the three composers were feeling in the mid-1980s. What they have recorded may speak to you and me…after all, might that be why the song became so well-known and loved, because its message rings true with its hearers? 

Gloria Gaither and Sandi Patti are well-known on the contemporary Christian music landscape, but Phil McHugh seems to be more of a mystery. Gaither and Patty have extensive biographies we can read (see sites listed below), but all that is readily available about McHugh is a list of the albums (apparently a total of five between the mid-1970s and 1998, the latest which is titled “Ride the Earth”) with which he is credited. Yet, his name appears first among the three composers when credits for this song “In the Name of the Lord” are shown. Was he the principal composer? Answer: unknown. The words of the song in one particular verse (see You-Tube link below for the complete words, performed by Patty) show that at least one or more of the composers felt stricken about life, with disintegrating plans that had left him or her with almost no strength. What were the plans of that composer, and how was that experience resolved? Perhaps you and I can ask McHugh and his fellow composers those questions someday. The message these three were communicating in the song about the effect of Jesus’ name leaves no room for doubt right now, though. It delivers unique benefits for the believer -- strength, power, and hope, direct from the blessed divine Word Himself.

McHugh, and Gaither, and Patty could probably readily think of times they felt feeble, beaten down. But, they don’t wallow in that part. Instead, the song offers a glimpse of Jesus’ life, of a simple carpenter whose being reached those who needed Him most. Simple, common, weak people are willing to draw upon Him for transcendence, to take that frailty that humans offer and magnify it exponentially. That’s quite a name. Maybe that’s why we don’t know more of the composers’ stories here. The point is not to re-tell my story of woe, which is probably very similar to one you or your neighbor might tell. Rather, focus on Him, the really unique, inimitable One.  If you meet McHugh, Gaither, or Patty, you might ask ‘em what was the story. (And, let the rest of us know!) But, someday, the only part that we’ll remember is that which brings bliss -- His name.

The following website offers some biographic information on Gloria Gaither and shows that the song was the 1987 Dove Award song of the year in 1987:

Listing of the albums that Phil McHugh cut:

Complete words of the song, as performed by Sandi Patti is in this You-Tube video:

Friday, January 20, 2012

Let Me Be A Sacrifice -- Daniel Gardner

Below in his own words is the story from Dan Gardner on how he came to write the song “Let Me Be A Sacrifice” in 1980-81. Notice what he shares about sacrifices, including those in the Old Testament (like one offered by Abel, see the picture here). Dan lives in the southeastern Michigan (Detroit) area. Thanks for sharing Dan!

Enjoy this fresh scoop fellow worshipers!

I began in full time worship ministry in 1980. The song “Let Me Be A Sacrifice” came to me as a result of personal devotion time with the Lord and around the time of writing and producing a worship musical called “The Ark and the Dove”.

The theme of the musical was to communicate how Jesus Christ became the Final Sacrifice; He paid the ultimate price that we might become the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus through salvation. The “Ark of the Covenant”, God’s presence, was approached once a year under the Old Covenant. The “Dove”, the Holy Spirit, God’s presence with us here and now, lit upon Jesus at His baptism. God identified Jesus to all present that day and set the course for His ministry on earth.

In the Old Testament, confession for atonement meant blood sacrifice. Under the New Covenant, we now praise (confess, profess, proclaim) the greatness of the One who saved and redeemed us.

As I meditated on Romans 12:1 (I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service) and Hebrews 13:15 (Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name), the melody and lyrics to Let Me Be A Sacrifice became my prayer and praise to God.

Let me be a sacrifice, holy and acceptable;
Let me be a sacrifice, consumed in Your praise.
Let me be a sacrifice, holy and acceptable;
Let me be a sacrifice, worshipping Your Name.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Our God Reigns -- Leonard Smith

He might not have thought so at the time, but maybe having a rough time finding and keeping a decent job was a blessing for Leonard Smith. He was trying to help others express faith in God and learn to study, and soon found this zeal made others frown. He soon found himself frowning too, because of the blows he endured. But, that’s when he found there was an ultimate truth, contained in the song “Our God Reigns”, that would not disappoint him. It was something that would always be true, something meant to reach beyond what happens here. If you or I could get our hands on that kind of truth, wouldn’t that be something! Step into Lenny Smith’s shoes for a moment, and let’s see how he came through this.

It was in the 1973-74 period, and Smith had lost his way vocationally. He’d been a high school teacher, but his instructional methods, the way he reached out to teenagers, was risky, according to his supervisors.  ‘Stop spreading God’s message’ was what he heard, and so he lost teaching jobs three times in the same number of years as he followed his heart. Relegated to painting houses and doing other jobs working with his hands, he felt miserable.  How was he supposed to provide for his family without being able to use his college degree? Was his enthusiasm for God supposed to leave him destitute or struggling to make ends meet? Smith didn’t walk away from his faith, however, and the grip of God’s message on him was what led him to a discovery that gave him renewed hope. Isaiah’s prophecy showed him something that was happening centuries ago to a nation, and what they heard that caused them to re-think their despair. ‘God reigns!’ And, not only that, He comes with good news. Good news?  Isn’t that kind of an understatement? What the prophet means is really so much more, Smith realized as he read the ancient prophecy. It’s amazing, breathtaking news. It was so powerful that Smith wept at reading it and realizing its import.  

What would good news and knowing God reigns mean to me? After a rotten, stressful day at the office, what can I take from this, the way Smith did in 1974? If traffic woes eat away at my energy-level, or I hear disappointing, crushing news someday, what keeps my chin up? Leonard Smith found that it was considering the life and experiences of Jesus that kept him from wallowing in his own gloom. He wrote one verse in 1974, and then wrote four more in 1978 to try to encompass the Savior’s existence. They capture what things Jesus might have dwelled upon, particularly in the middle three of five verses that he wrote. He was ignored and scorned, unfairly convicted and responsible for my wrongdoing, and finally executed for things He never did. If anyone ever had a reason for despair, it was Jesus! But, verses one and five of Smith’s song bookend the bad news, with the electric, history-changing message. He knew the good news, and He didn’t keep it to Himself. My crummy job, my depressing life, and even death cannot steal from me what awaits me.  This news has the power to overwhelm anything else that dogs me. God makes these rules, because He said so…He reigns. Now go shout it to anyone else who’ll listen!  

“The Complete Book of Hymns – Inspiring Stories About 600 Hymns and Praise Songs”, by William J.  and Ardythe Perersen , published by Tyndale House in 2006; and  the book “Our God Reigns (The Stories Behind Your Favorite Praise and Worship Songs)”, by Phil Christensen and Shari MacDonald, Kregel Publications, 2000 are the sources for this song story.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

In Moments Like These – David Graham

What was the moment? Did he look at the clock hands or a calendar to mark that time, with as much fanfare as some ancient clocks might have inspired (see the 14th Century elephant clock in the picture)? He was probably experiencing something special, because he wrote a song “In Moments Like These” to commemorate that occasion. Maybe he was hoping that he could rekindle the moment if he created a way to remember what he felt like. Would it be a Pavlovian kind of word-action association, in which the words and music would remind him of the feelings of devotion to the One above? What was David Graham’s background and life up to that point? What does the song say about him looking toward Him?

We know little about this David Graham, except what we can read in the words he wrote in this song. Publicly available information (on the internet sites listed below) indicate that he was born in 1948, so that would mean he was 32 years old when the song was composed in 1980. He wrote probably at least a few other songs, including “Alalalelujah”, otherwise known as “Ha-la-la-la”, “We Worship Thee”, “Give Him Glory, Glory”, and a few others in the 1970s and 1980s. So, he wasn’t shy about expressing his faith openly, was he? Chances are that he tried to lead others to the Holy One’s throne through this music. Perhaps he was engaged in formal ministry in this effort too. Was his worship style of a pentecostal or otherwise very expressive nature, someone might ask, since he invites the worshipper to “lift up…hands” with his song? And, what were the circumstances of this song’s creation…what draws people to the Lord in love and devotion? Perhaps it was an answer to prayer, a ‘thank you’ for deliverance, or a recognition of blessing.

The moment could have been anything. And, it matters little to God what circumstances draw me toward Him. The challenge here is using the moments I have. Are you waiting for a special moment? …you just had one. Now tell someone how it felt. 

Addendum: Here’s what David Graham e:mailed this blogger about the story, on 13 February 2017. Thanks David!  I wrote the song, guitar in hand, on a beautiful spring Sunday afternoon on a hillside near the edge of the Flathead Valley in northwest Montana. The music and words just "came"...all at the same I sat leaning against a tall Douglas Fir tree and watched my four beautiful children...running, laughing, and playing on the bright green grass surrounding the log home down the hill below me. There's much more to the story but I will NEVER forget that day.

See this site that indicates Graham was born in 1948.

The following site suggests some other songs that David Graham wrote:

Monday, January 2, 2012

You Are the Song that I Sing -- Doug Moody

Doug Moody was pretty aware of how to regard his musical gift. And, he passed along to others how to think about music too. This contemporary Psalmist must have sensed what his biblical ancestor did – that musical inspiration has a providential source. If you had a gift that somebody else had given you, how could you best flatter the giver? That’s the question that Moody may have been trying to answer with “You Are the Song that I Sing”. 

Moody had been teaching music in the 1970s, including to his brother and future fellow composer Dave, at the Glad Tidings Church in Vancouver, British Columbia in Canada. By the time he wrote “Your Are the Song…” in 1984, he was still teaching, but this time he was making sure his hearers knew how a song with his own name on it had been developed. His name appeared on the song’s subscript, where it says ‘composer’, but Moody knew who really deserved the credit. An author might put in endnotes or footnotes to give proper credit to a deserving source, but Moody used a more direct method. It’s right in the song’s words. And, if Moody’s ministry-life is an indication, he must have been living this same message every day he walked about the church and the community where he worked too. It’s said that his brother Dave’s life in music was greatly influenced by Doug. (Dave wrote few dozen songs, the most well-known of which was “All Hail, King Jesus”). And, as he likewise instructed others through the same ministry, many more probably witnessed his example.  

Does one’s life have to be in music for one to feel the Divine influence? Can I be artistic pounding a nail, driving a delivery vehicle, or even cleaning up a mess for a living? Doug Moody’s not here to offer an opinion, but can you guess what he’d say? I can be a man after His heart, and be creative – mimicking Him -- in my own small way no matter what I’m doing. After all, songs that resonate with us have their origin in all kinds of experiences and meaningful stories, not just music instruction. That’s what can make each one so unique. Do you think that’s why He made all of us, so we could multiply His song-making potential with each life on this planet? Just imagine what all that music would sound like! Let’s see, that means there are billions of tunes gestating right now…     

An indirect source for Doug Moody’s song story is the book “Our God Reigns: The Stories behind Your Favorite Praise and Worship Songs”, by Phil Christensen and Shari MacDonald, Kregel Publications, 2000.

The following site is to the church where Doug Moody ministered.